PARIS, France — Iris Van Herpen has been pushing an interdisciplinary exchange between fashion, art and science for a decade now — some will remember her vacuum-packed live models, others her dresses formed from bubbles of glass, latex peacock heads, or the delicate patterns of iron filings. A deep and foreboding sense of drama has often impregnated Van Herpen’s performative shows, and for Autumn/Winter 2017, the Dutch designer called upon the theatrics of AquaSonic — the underwater concert sensation by Dutch collective ‘Between Music’ — to bring the action.
After demanding a smartphone-free blackout before starting the show, the four performers were unveiled, each of their bodies floating within its own large aquarium populated with the tools of their trade. Occasionally rising for air, the musicians assembled a moody soundscape of chanting, violin, percussion and brass instruments — a perfectly haunting backdrop to Van Herpen’s anniversary collection.
Entitled ‘Aeriform’, the eighteen silhouettes built upon many of the tropes that Van Herpen has made her own — nebulous, pleated gowns wafted over the body (in cotton, bonded to Mylar), columns bristled with laser cut velvet lace, and silvery, dome-like metal cage appliqués could have been Van Herpen’s answer to the iconic camellia chez Chanel.
The theme of air was a savvy move here: it emphasised movement and lightness in a way that once hindered her more restrictive and robotic creations. This time around butterfly sleeves and caped kaftan shapes were a welcome departure, yet their flowing silhouette negated none of the intricate hand-pleated, printed, beaded or braided techniques with which they were constructed. Though the results harboured a fragile, ethereal beauty, this was another Van Herpen collection dedicated to black, nude and metallic tones, proving colour seems to remain unconquered territory here. As one of few designers genuinely looking to the future to be inspired, let’s hope she’ll programme the full spectrum into haute couture’s uncertain tomorrow.